Why Detox Teas Don’t Work for Weight Loss
Cleanses take a lot of forms now, from the Izocleanse made popular by Kelly and Ryan, to the celery juice seen on the Instagram feeds of “wellness” influencers everywhere. But to date, #DetoxTea is more popular than any of them with 850,000 tags on Instagram — that’s 700,000 more than celery juice.
Actress Jameela Jamil has words about the ripple effect of mega-influencers like the Kardashians who proudly display the results of their “flat tummy successes” with detox teas. The star of NBC’s The Good Place recently went off on one of Khloe’s (since deleted) sponsored posts.
“If you’re too irresponsible to: a) own up to the fact that you have a personal trainer, nutritionist, probable chef, and a surgeon to achieve your aesthetic, rather than this laxative product… and b) tell them the side effects of this NON-FDA approved product, that most doctors are saying aren’t healthy,” Jameela wrote. “Then I guess I have to.”
Those side effects include cramping, stomach pains, diarrhea, and dehydration, among others. The truth is, no single diet drink or dietary supplement can induce weight loss, nor will it positively impact the metabolic functions already done by your organs.
Here’s the lowdown on this weight-loss tea trend.
What is detox tea?
Detox teas are different from other teas you’d buy because of the health claims they make on product packaging. That means they’re considered supplements in the eyes of the law —not food — and they aren’t regulated by the FDA.
Detox teas vary in their health or weight-loss claims, but popular versions like Flat Tummy Tea say they can:
- Reduce your bloating
- Support your metabolism
- Help maintain a healthy immune system
- Boost your energy
- Detoxify your system
- Decrease your water retention
- Cleanse your digestive system
The concerning “teatoxes” contain cassia, senna, and chamaecrista — three plants also used in over-the-counter laxatives. Many also use psyllium husk, a form of soluble fiber often used in stool softening products, like the ones in your grandparents’ medicine cabinet.
These plant-derived laxatives stimulate your GI tract to help move things along. However, since the FDA doesn’t oversee dietary supplements like pharmaceutical products, there’s no guarantee that the sourcing of ingredients is safe or that the product works the way it claims to. There are more instances of adverse health effects and liver damage than there are of some miracle “cure” or vital organ rejuvenation found from drinking them!
Does detox tea make you lose weight?
A 3-day or 3-week teatox program cannot yield permanent results that are beneficial. You may lose water weight, but if you are, that may indicate that you’re losing a significant amount of electrolytes. Electrolytes help with muscle and nerve function, therefore impacting every organ system in your body. You may not notice an electrolyte imbalance until you have a muscle cramp (best case scenario) or cardiac arrest (worst case scenario).
This also means that any water weight you lose is probably temporary. If you get too dehydrated, hormones in your body send a signal to your kidneys to start retaining fluid once you stop drinking said teas.
If the end result of a teatox is bloat, what happens? For many of us, that feeling primes us to point the blame-finger internally and buy into the idea that either we didn’t do “enough” or that there’s something wrong with us — a shame-triggering cycle that can keep us on a diet-driven hamster wheel for life.
There’s another reason why cleanses and detoxes can backfire. If you’re attempting to fill up on calorie-free liquid for a set period of time, you’re simply surviving. You may not have the energy to leave the house — much less, the toilet. You’re also primed to feel starving once this detox period is over. The appetite-suppressing hormones during the “fast” reverse, and leading you to feel ravenous afterwards once you’ve had a bite of solid food.
Do detox teas really work?
Nope. As long as you have a functioning gut, liver, and kidneys, you’re always detoxing — ridding your body of the compounds you don’t need, or repurposing them for other beneficial uses. Enzymes in your stomach and intestine digest and absorb the nutrients you need and excrete what you don’t need via your kidneys, liver, and lower GI tract.
Drinking detox tea does NOT expedite the functions that your body already does all day, every day. Surviving on tea for the purpose of giving your liver a “break” is unnecessary. Without energy in the form of calories, you may slow down your liver’s detoxification systems, rather than expediting them.
Will detox tea speed up my metabolism?
A few small-scale studies — mostly performed in test tubes or on mice — have linked an increase in metabolic rate with drinking about 4 cups of caffeinated green tea per day. But detox tea isn’t typically made from green tea, and even if it were, you may not see much of a benefit personally. Genetics, personal caffeine tolerance, sleep, and physical activity levels also influence your metabolism, so how much drinking tea affects you is highly subjective (and therefore, not worth it for its proposed metabolic impact).
The only tried-and-true way drinking tea will help give you a kick in the metabolism? By helping you wake up to get your tush to the gym (sorry!). Since your metabolism depends on your lean body mass, building more muscle is a surer way to change metabolism for the long-term.
Why is detox tea bad for you?
As a registered dietitian, teatoxes are not only exploitative, they’re an irresponsible and abusive “interpretation” of existing scientific research, and serve only to propagate a myth that binging and restricting can make you thin — not to mention, happier and healthier.
I’m highly opposed to the idea that better health and weight loss can be achieved or encouraged through deprivation and restriction. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Products such as these only serve to bolster weight-cycling and depression, both of which can stem from disordered eating and are enhanced by social media messaging — especially among young women. Reality TV stars (e.g., the Kardashians) are bold enough to publicly admit that they’re shilling for cash without knowing much at all about the long-term physical and mental health effects of these products. A word to celebs who are keen on detox tea: Perhaps it’s time to reconsider your influencer marketing efforts for produce.
Here are some specifics as to why we strongly advise you don’t go there.
There’s not enough evidence showing they’re safe.
Most commercial cleanses are considered dietary supplements, which means that they are not regulated by the FDA. The claims about a product being crucial to your wellbeing are just marketing, not verifiable terminology with scientific backing. There’s also no mention of potential interactions with any medications you may take. Please, if you take nothing else away from this article, at least talk to your doctor before starting any supplement regimen.
We don’t know what’s in them.
If the ingredients in the tea you’ve purchased for $50 can’t be verified by the manufacturer, what they do in your body can’t really be determined. It also means that there’s a risk for contamination of substances you may not particularly want or need. In some rare cases, they can be highly dangerous, functioning like other types of hormones in your body such as steroids or thyroid hormones.
Reminder: They will make you poop.
Despite brands’ dispute of this fact, it’s more than likely that drinking lots of powders, sugar water, and herbs can keep you from leaving the house, thanks to the fact that you’ll need proximity to a bathroom at all times.
They can make you seriously sick.
In the best case scenario, drinking tea for the sake of helping your liver perform the tasks it already does is a waste of money, time, and energy. In the worst case scenario: Anything with a laxative effect can potentially result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, electrolyte imbalance, disturbance to your blood’s acid-base balance, and ultimately a higher risk of hospitalization due to liver damage rather than the purported benefits of “detoxing.”
So in case you still needed to be convinced on where we stand on detox or flat-tummy teas? We’re hardcore TEAM JAMEELA!